Friday, March 28, 2008

Quiet Storm

Last night was a monster session of hoops, both NBA and collegiate. I had four games locked and loaded on my double tuner, HD DVR, and so when I got home from work, I just went to town. But nothing much happened that stood out as a "big" story. Seriously, check out the slate of games:

- North Carolina walloped Washington State (much to my co-worker Pete's chagrin - keep your head up, Pete). No surprise there, considering the Heels are playing like UNLV circa 1990 right now.

- Xavier topped West Virginia in an overtime thriller. This was a great game and produced B.J. Raymond's epic OT performance and equally epic celebration, but there isn't much for me to talk about on my NBA blog (other than the fact that Xavier's Josh Duncan reminds me A LOT of Carlos Boozer).

- Louisville won easily, but I didn't get to see much of that one.

- UCLA won again despite not playing particularly well, which makes this no different from their previous 12 tournament victories from 2006-2008. (Seriously, is there any team in the history of college basketball as lucky as Ben Howland's bunch? I know that you create your own luck and that their tenacious defense is a large part of that, but that A&M game really took the cake.)

- Denver overcame a 15-point deficit to run Dallas off the floor in a key Western Conference game, which would have been noteworthy except that it is beyond obvious that Dallas should NOT HAVE RUN WITH DENVER, as pointed out in the previous post. How obtuse can a team be?

- Golden State also overcame a significant early deficit to crush Portland, and here, finally, we get some "news we can use."

That's because Matt Barnes just came back from the dead a la Tony Almeda. Barnes has been mired in the slump of all slumps for this entire season as he has struggled to deal with the death of his mother. But last night, against Portland, he looked like the Matt Barnes of old, scoring 8 points, grabbing 8 boards, and hitting a couple of big three pointers.

It wasn't a particularly massive stat line (although not at all bad, for 19 minutes of playing time), but the way he was bouncing around and shooting the ball with confidence suggests he might be back to his old self and back in Nellie's good graces.

All of which is terribly important, because a healthy and effective Barnes is the difference between the Warriors being a fun, overmatched team and a legit threat in the playoffs. He's tall enough to give them an additional post defender while retaining their ability to spread the floor on offense, and he's one of their most instinctive finishers on the fast break. Not only that, but he's one of those glue guys that seems to come up big in the biggest moments. Each of those traits will be paramount in helping G-State duplicate or top last season's success.

Everyone assumes the Warriors' ceiling is "win one series, give another team trouble" because that is what happened last year. But that thinking is flawed. The reason they couldn't win in the second round last year had more to do with playing Utah than it did with any sort of inability to pull off consecutive upsets.

If Barnes is really back, then I think the Warriors are just as dangerous as any other Western Conference contender and that their fate - like every other team - is tied to matchups (and, to their detriment, home court advantage). Heck, I might just pick them to win it all. If they make the playoffs, that is.

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